Get the FREE DIGITAL BOOK: The Case for Killer Robots
Mind Matters Reporting on Natural and Artificial Intelligence

CategoryEthics

matthew-brodeur-436250-unsplash
Cryptic characters in neon, a password or curse word

Bitcoin: Is Lack of Trust the Biggest Security Threat?

It’s almost a parable: Everyone can see, no one can access, the millions trapped in the ether by a password known only to a dead man

Is this the future of currency? Seems like the Dark Ages to me. Bitcoin is a clever idea, but it is perhaps too clever for its own good.

Read More ›
human-embryo-week-9
Human Fetus Week Nine

The Junk Science of the Abortion Lobby

Fetuses not only experience pain but experience it more intensely than do adults
Much of pro-abortion advocacy is science denial—the deliberate misrepresentation of science to advance an ideological agenda. Mary Ziegler, a law professor at Florida State University, wrote a misleading essay on that theme in the New York Times, “Science won’t end this debate” (January 22, 2019). Read More ›
ethan-hoover-738138-unsplash
Sparkler between two hands

The Creative Spark

An information theory justification for the intrinsic value of human beings
Because creativity is unique to humans and irreducible, all human beings have the ability in principle. The fact that a particular human being’s creativity is not in use or is perhaps unusable at present does not mean that that person does not have the ability. Consequently, all humans have at least latent intrinsic instrumental value. Read More ›
rawpixel-780496-unsplash

Research Showing That Fake News Easily Fools Us Collapses

A recent paper claiming that low-quality news (“fake news”) spreads as quickly on social media as accurate news has been retracted by its authors.
A team from the Shanghai Institute of Technology sought to study whether accuracy made any difference to whether a post goes viral on social media. They cited a concern about “the digital misinformation that threatens our democracy.” Read More ›
nathan-dumlao-741942-unsplash

AI: Think About Ethics Before Trouble Arises

A machine learning specialist reflects on Micah 6:8 as a guide to developing ethics for the rapidly growing profession
To love mercy sometimes means to give up efficiency. It could mean losing a few points of model accuracy by refusing to take into account features that invade privacy or are proxies for race, leading to discriminatory model behavior. But that’s OK. The merciful are willing to give up some of their rights and advantages so they can help others.   Read More ›
audience-crowd-fans-93490

5: AI Can Fight Hate Speech!

AI can carry out its programmers’ biases and that’s all
Putting these kinds of decisions in the hands of software programs is not likely to promote vigorous and healthy debate. Read More ›
webvilla-293-unsplash

Is Salad Murder?

A Darwinian biologist wrestles with the significance of plant intelligence

If plants can sense things and communicate with each other, even though they lack a mind or brain, should they have rights? In an age of sometimes violent animal rights activism, that’s not an idle question. Plant physiologist Ulrich Kutschera, author of Physiology of Plants. Sensible Vegetation in Action (January 2019, German), talked about it in a recent interview: This is a serious issue which is related to plant intelligence. In April 2009, the Swiss Parliament discussed the topic of “plant ethics” and proposed to attribute to plants a kind of “Würde”, which can be translated as “dignity” (3). As a consequence, some radical plant ethics-activists have distributed T-shirts and other propaganda material with the slogan “Salad is murder”. Despite Read More ›

tracy-thomas-56810-unsplash
1970s television and speakers

Science Confronts Credibility Issues?

Not to worry, prestigious researchers blame them on social media trolls and bots
And another thing: The researchers phoned the Seventies and asked them to please come back. Soon. Seriously, that’s the impression I get from reading a paper in PNAS, stemming from the National Academy of Sciences’ Arthur M. Sackler Colloquium November 2017 Read More ›
sam-burriss-392776-unsplash
Man with red paint flowing from eyes

AI and the Future of Murder

If I kill you but upload your mind into an android, did I murder you or just modify you?
The sci-fi TV series Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (2013– ) tackled this question in an episode titled “Self Control”.  Scientist Holden Radcliffe has an android assistant appropriately named Aida (Artificial Intelligence Digital Assistant). Together, they build a virtual world that people could be plugged into and uploaded into, called The Framework. Read More ›
jimmy-chang-569951-unsplash

Facial Recognition Aids Persecution of Chinese Christians, Muslims

Western companies still seek business ties with an increasingly authoritarian regime

The crackdown on religion is said to stem from Xi Jinping, who became President in 2012. After he got term limits removed in March 2018, some have begun to privately call him “Emperor Xi.”

Read More ›
sai-kiran-anagani-61187-unsplash-modified

Can Tim Berners-Lee, who invented the World Wide Web, save it from humanity?

Berners-Lee has launched a global campaign for a Magna Carta to “protect people’s rights online from threats such as fake news, prejudice and hate”
Not everyone sees Berners-Lee’s project as realistic. For one thing, acquiring and using masses of personal data without consent is the very basis of the business of the big social media companies, who are more powerful than many nation states. Read More ›
bernard-hermant-590572-unsplash
Peep hole with camera

A chilling snippet from mass surveillance in China

China is helping other countries restrict their citizens’ internet, while shunning the U.S.
Overall, governments worldwide are restricting the freedom of the internet, especially around election times, and the big social media companies are conspicuous by their silence.   Read More ›
MS._Hatton_48_fol._6v-7r

Peaceful code of conduct sparks rage in Silicon Valley

Hi tech firm’s code, based on ancient monks’ practice, deemed “just disgusting”
Whether or not the Rule of St. Benedict is suited to a high tech workplace, the strategy of frightening or policing people out of bad behavior implies low expectations. One thing it means is, there will be many more news stories about harassment to come. Read More ›
End of the road. Precipice, indicated by signs. 3d render

There is no universal moral machine

The “Moral Machine” project aimed at righteous self-driving cars revealed stark differences in global values

Whatever the causes of cultural differences, Brendan Dixon thinks that the Moral Machine presents mere caricatures of moral problems anyway. “The program reduces everything to a question of who gets hurt. There are no shades of gray or degrees of hurt. It is, as is so often with computers, simply black or white, on or off. None of the details that make true moral decisions hard and interesting remain.”

Read More ›
markus-spiske-803817-unsplash

Are sex robots a cure for loneliness?

Maybe, in a culture where people see themselves as machines
Nancy Pearcey, who is the author of Love Thy Body: Answering Hard Questions about Life and Sexuality, reminds us that the most popular metaphor for the universe today is a vast machine. Read More ›
Woman with digital headset sensor connected to her ear, reading brain impulses

Google is collecting data on schoolkids

Some say it’s okay because the firm supplies a lot of free software and hardware to schools
Many parents may not be content to let matters rest there; they might prefer to pay taxes for school equipment and have less surveillance in our lives overall. Read More ›
ricardo-viana-105232-unsplash

Google Powering China’s Snoop Culture

They’ve suppressed the memo but can’t suppress the uproar around it
It may at first seem deeply ironic that a Silicon Valley ostensibly committed to liberal values would help to unleash this storm. But a political analyst carefully traces the growth in its enthusiasm for “smart government,” using the tools of information technology for social engineering. Read More ›
CCTV camera or surveillance operating with crowded people in bac

Digital dictatorship?

China’s “social credit” system coming under scrutiny
It is not clear that most Chinese people understand the implications yet but many in the industry do. As of September 16, over 1400 Google employees had signed a letter of protest against Google’s involvement in Chinese censorship.   Read More ›
coconut

Coconuts Go High Tech

Plastics from coconut waste offer economic benefit to poor farmers

One of Walter Bradley’s longstanding goals as an engineer and materials scientist has been to harness advanced materials technology to help the world’s poor, most of whom are poor farmers.

Read More ›